AMD’s Shanghai Surprise

Clearly AMD has no intention of giving Q4 over to Intel. The company announced that “Shanghai,” the first server chips made with the 45nm manufacturing process, will ship in the fourth quarter of this year, around the same time as Intel’s Core i7, a.k.a. “Nehalem” will hit the market.

AMD had already said Shanghai would come out this year, it just hadn’t said when. The news is an attempt to one-up Intel on the eve of its annual Intel Developer Forum, which kicks off on Tuesday.

Shanghai will introduce a number of changes, although none as radical as the oft-delayed Quad Core Opteron, “Barcelona,” which was a true quad core design. It will be the first AMD processor made on a 45nm design, something Intel has been doing for a while. This should translate to higher clock speeds while consuming less power.

Shanghai will have 6MB of L3 cache, three times Barcelona’s cache, and will support 800MHz DDR2 memory. Barcelona supports 667MHz memory. There will also be improvements in AMD-V, a virtualization technology for better processor clock scheduling. Clock speeds are still not known.

The best argument in Shanghai’s favor will be that it supports AMD’s Socket F design, the same as Barcelona and the older dual core Opteron, so existing Barcelona servers can be upgraded with just a BIOS upgrade and a chip swap. Migrating from older Intel systems to Core i7 means a whole new motherboard, processor and possibly memory.

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